PUBLIC representatives should not go into communities, listen to the people’s problems, go back home, and do nothing about those problems. They should address those problems and do something about them.
These were the sentiments expressed by Congress of the People (Cope) leader in the Eastern Cape provincial legislature, Sam Kwelita, at the provincial launch of the party’s Community Service Work Programme in Grahamstown at the weekend.
The launch at the indoor sports centre in Joza on Saturday afternoon was preceded by a cocktail function where top-ranking Cope officials interacted with members of the media.
In Grahamstown for the launch were Kwelita, Members of Parliament Mampe Ramotsamai-Kotsi and Phumelele Ntshiqela, Western Cape provincial chair and MPL Mbulelo Ncedana, Western Cape MPL Thozama Bevu, and provincial secretary Archie Ralo.
Cope’s community service work programme will see public representatives of the party in the Eastern Cape legislature coming into regular contact with the people on farms and in villages, townships and towns throughout the Eastern Cape, developing and sustaining “a culture of an active citizenry for a better livelihood,” said Kwelita.
The community service work programme has already been rolled out in the districts of Chris Hani, Joe Gqabi, OR Tambo, Amathole and Buffalo City Metro.
“Cope is ready to connect with all communities, irrespective of political affiliation,” Kwelita stressed, adding that the party’s community service work “therefore cuts across political party lines and is a legislative responsibility of all political parties in the legislature.”
In the days leading up to the provincial launch of the community service work programme, Kwelita said, Cope public representatives had visited problem areas in Grahamstown, Bathurst and Bhisho.
COPING WITH COMMUNITY SERVICE: Top-ranking Cope officials were in Grahamstown at the weekend for the Eastern Cape provincial launch of the party’s Community Service Work Programme. Prior to the launch they met with members of the media, answering questions pertaining to the programme. Among those attending the media briefing and the launch were, (from left) Phumelele Ntshiqela (Member of Parliament), Sam Kwelita (Eastern Cape chairman of Cope and leader of the party in the legislature), Mampe Ramotsamai-Kotsi (MP and Cope National Working Committee member), Thozama Bevu (Western Cape MPL and Congress National Committee member) and Mbulelo Ncedana (Western Cape provincial chair and MPL) Picture: SID PENNEY
They have also visited and assisted with problems encountered in Zwelitsha, Gariep and Lusikisiki.
“We will be going to other communities on a continuous basis. The programme of going to the people is sustainable. We are not only going to open offices, but will visit the people,” said Kwelita.
Through direct contact between Cope’s public representatives and communities, the party has come to the conclusion that service delivery in the Eastern Cape is in crisis. “This further undermines the poor and the most marginalised sections of society,” he added.
Kwelita said the issue of sewerage removal is a “huge problem” in certain areas, while education “remains a problem”.
“In communities visited by Cope members, people have exclaimed: ‘At last! This is the first time we have been visited by MPs’.”
Kwelita said it is the duty of public representatives to address problems in communities. “If they do not do it they are failing in their duties. If others do not do it, you must go there and do it. This work (Cope’s community service work programme) will be continuous. The work we are doing is funded – we do get money. It is work that Parliament funds.
“We are trying to intervene in matters that adversely affect communities.”
Kwelita told the gathering: “If government refuses to help communities and effect service delivery, we must take steps to address the issue. Citizens of this country should enjoy what is their right. There are steps that we will take to ensure that people enjoy their lives.”
Some issues have been referred to the Human Rights Commission and the Public Protector, said Kwelita.
“We (Cope) want to bring knowledge to the people. They must know their rights. Sometimes they are exploited. This programme does what is important to us – connecting with communities.”
Addressing the media specifically, Kwelita said: “We rely on the media to expose those government officials who do not do their jobs. Are they going to raise these people’s hopes, and then let them down? It is important that government is held accountable. If we do not, we as political parties are failing.”
In closing, Kwelita said Cope is “aware that the Community Service Work Programme will have direct resistance from the ruling party and other social forces competing on the political landscape”.
However, this “will never tone us down as we are firm in our belief that the need for active communities, collectively committed and dedicated towards building a better future for them, is not a favour or optional, but the most scientific method of building a better future.”
Member of Parliament Mampe Ramotsamai-Kotsi said: “It is not our duty to carry people all the way, but to empower them. We empower communities and walk with them.”